”You have to love the place where you live to stay on the land here,” Marko Krstic, the oldest son, told visitors to the farm at Bec, a few miles from the Albanian border. There have been no serious troubles between Serbians and Albanians in Bec, but Serbs in some of the neighboring villages have reportedly been harassed by Albanians and have packed up and left the region.
The exodus of Serbs is admittedly one of the main problems that the authorities have to contend with in Kosovo, an autonomous province of Yugoslavia inhabited largely by Albanians.
Rioting Brought Awareness
Last year’s riots, in which nine people were killed, shocked not only the troubled province of Kosovo but also the entire country into an awareness of the problems of this most backward part of Yugoslavia, which is made up of many ethnic groups.
In June a 43-year-old Serb, Miodrag Saric, was shot and killed by an Albanian neighbor, Ded Krasnici, in a village near Djakovica, 40 miles southwest of Pristina, according to the official Yugoslav press agency Tanyug. It was the second murder of a Serb by an Albanian in Kosovo this year. The dispute reportedly started with a quarrel over damage done to a field belonging to the Saric family.
The local political and security bodies condemned the murder as ”a grave criminal act” that could have serious repercussions, according to the press agency. Five members of the Krasnici family have been arrested and investigations are continuing.
The authorities have responded at various levels to the violence in Kosovo, clearly trying to avoid antagonizing the Albanian majority. Besides firm security measures, action has been taken to speed political, educational and economic changes.
Past Errors Acknowledged
Privately, some officials acknowledge that the rise of Albanian nationalism in a society that is based on the principle of the equality of nationalities is the result of past errors – at first neglect and discrimination, and more recently failure to act against divisive forces or even recognize them.
”The nationalists have a two-point platform,” according to Becir Hoti, an executive secretary of the Communist Party of Kosovo, ”first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania.”
Mr. Hoti, an Albanian, expressed concern over political pressures that were forcing Serbs to leave Kosovo. ”What is important now,” he said, ”is to establish a climate of security and create confidence.”
The migration of Serbs is no ordinary problem becuase Kosovo is the heartland of Serbian history, culture and religion. Serbs have been in this region since the seventh century, long before they founded their own independent dynasty here in 1168. 57,000 Have Left Region
Some 57,000 Serbs have left Kosovo in the last decade, and the number increased considerably after the riots of March and April last year, according to Vukasin Jokanovic, another executive secretary of the Kosovo party.
Mr. Jokanovic, former president of the Commission on Migration set up after last year’s disturbances, said the cause of Serbian migration was ”essentially of a political nature.”
The commission has given four basic reasons for the departures: social-economic, normal migration from this underdeveloped area, an increasingly adverse social-political climate and direct and indirect pressures.
Mr. Jokanovic, a Serb, called the pressures disturbing and said they included personal insults, damage to Serbian graves and the burning of hay, cutting down wood and other attacks on property to force Serbs to leave.
The 1981 census showed Kosovo with a population of 1,584,558, of whom 77.5 percent were ethnic Albanians, 13.2 percent Serbs and 1.7 percent Montenegrins. The population in 1971 of 1,243,693 was 73.8 percent Albanian, 18.4 percent Serbian and 2.5 percent Montenegrin. Ex-Defense Minister Concerned
In a recent visit to Kosovo, Nikola Ljubcic, head of the Serbian Presidency and a former Minister of Defense, expressed particular concern about the continuing exodus of Serbs.
”An ethnically clean Kosovo will always be cause for instability,” Mr. Ljubicic said, adding that Yugoslavia ”will never give up one foot of her land.”
Conversations with Serbs and Albanians in different parts of the province showed that that they were generally troubled about the Serbian migration but did not know what to do about it. Some people described it as ”psychological warfare” but were at a loss to explain who was at fault.
In Pristina, the provincial capital, with its skyscrapers and bustling streets, people said they felt relatively secure because the authorities maintained ”a close watch.” Although the army remains at a distance and has not had to intervene, there is a strong militia presence.
Things appear relaxed on the Corso, Pristina’s main street. As in other Yugoslav cities, every night from about 6 to 10 the main thoroughfare is closed to traffic and practically everyone turns out for a stroll, encounters and discussions. Different Sides of Street
What is special about Pristina is that it has always been Serbs on one side of the street and Albanians on the other. Residents say Albanins have been encroaching on Serbian ”territory” since the disturbances.
After the crackdown on Albanian nationalists – about 300 have been sentenced – they are said to have changed tactics, moving to the villages, where there is less security control.
In some mixed communities, there were reports of farmers being pressured to sell their land cheap and of Albanian shopkeepers refusing to sell goods to Serbs.
”We don’t want to go because we have a large farm,” a Serbian farmer’s wife said in a village near Pristina. ”Our property hasn’t been touched, but there are the insults and the intimidation, so we feel uncomfortable.” Several neighbors have left, she said, and her own sons who were planning to build a new house have stopped ”to see how things will turn out.”
There have been many changes since the riots, but most people in Pristina agree with Mr. Ljubicic that more could be done. The main thrust of the changes is economic. ”We’re going to change the economic structures with more emphasis on agriculture, the processing industry, small business and handicrafts,” Aziz Abrashi, the Economics Minister, said in an interview.
”Ninety-nine percent of the Albanians have no wish to live in Albania,” Mr. Abrashi, an Albanian, said, ”but they view the rest of Yugoslavia and are aware of the higher living standards. Our young people want the same good life, the nice houses and cars, and they can’t get them if they can’t get jobs.”